Since 2010, Las Fotos Project (LFP) has been facilitating free photography workshops as an empowerment tool for young girls who wouldn’t otherwise have the resources to learn about the art form. In doing so, LFP is also teaching these young girls the importance of giving back to their own communities using their newfound photography skills. Often times, teens are too busy keeping up with current social trends preventing them from analyzing their own neighborhoods. Through the weekly workshops, mentors don’t simply teach the mechanics and aesthetics of photography, they train students how to delve deeper into the scenes they capture within their own communities.

_DSC4562Donna De Loera, a resource and volunteer coordinator at a local agency serving survivors of domestic violence, chose to volunteer at LFP because she “wanted to give back to my community. Mentoring has allowed her the opportunity to guide young girls to explore their communities through a different lens by focusing, not on the community as a static neighborhood with roads, structures and cars, but as a place where positive social change can be achieved.

Each week, Donna makes it a point to spotlight various photographers, including their backgrounds, unique styles, and their work, at the beginning of each session. She then asks her students to interpret those photographers and their work. “This has helped us to show the different types of photography out there and how these individuals have used photography as a medium for change within different communities. This process also allows us to show the girls how photography can be used to tell a story, including their own.”

One of Donna’s mentees is 14-year-old Karen Castro, who Donna describes as “very intelligent, thoughtful with an admirable love for her community.” Karen has begun using the tools LFP has made available to her to stir her creative interest in “seeing what’s going on in my community.” In fact, Karen says that LFP has taught her that “even though something is little, it can be turned into something big,” including bringing forth a visual movement. Thus, Karen’s interest in photography has shifted from mere curiosity to an aspiration of becoming a photographer. Donna hopes that through her participation in LFP, Karen can understand the power of photography and “the positive impact it can have on oneself and on one’s community.”

As Donna explains, “with LFP’s presence, attention has been given to a community that can often be overlooked. Through the girls’ projects, they will be able to shed light on the unique beauty of the community, as well as developing potential solutions to some of the challenges the community faces.”